February 8, 2022

Nordic energy voices: Karina Barnholt Klepper

"By acknowledging that gender equality is important - not only in society in general, but in all facets of the energy transition - and by choosing to strive for it, you make your mindset more inclusive. Inclusive mindsets and diverse workplaces inspire and encourage creativity that may result in bold, new ideas."

How did you end up working with energy issues?

I’ve always been interested in nature and natural sciences, in particular chemistry. At the University of Oslo, I studied in materials chemistry and part of my research was on materials for solar cells. When I worked at Nordic Energy Research, I met and worked with many people and projects looking at the effects of climate change and the absolute necessity of an energy transition. I realized that the energy transition and reaching a carbon neutral society will affect us in ways we still can’t see the full extent of. Climate change and this transition is also a focus area where I am currently working.

What do you do in your current position?

I’m doing research on energy security as part of the basis for societal security. As part of this, we are looking into how climate changes, adaptions and measures will affect our Armed Forces and national security.

What would you say most motivates you in your current work?  What are you most excited or passionate about?

Climate changes is a comprehensive and complex problem that affect us all in one way or another. Transitioning to renewable energy and finding solutions to fight climate changes is a key issue that everyone needs to contribute to. Taking part in finding solutions and making this transition also socially sustainable to preserve our society, is something that I feel strongly about and want to take part in.

As for the Nordic region’s role as a sustainability frontrunner, what are your thoughts on combining green energy and gender equality?

It is necessary to combine these aspects to ensure and implement socially sustainable energy solutions. Cultivating new, holistic energy solutions is a necessity for reaching the climate goals for 2050. We have to put all our brainpower to use to reach these goals, and therefore we need to take rapid action to significantly improve gender equality and diversity in the energy sector. The Nordics need to maintain their economic advantage and keep unemployment low when fossil fuels are phased out. This will in turn preserve our democracy and minimize social differences, which we pride ourselves on. Energy poverty is a real threat to our Nordic society if we do not take well-considered steps in the energy transition. It is society’s weakest that will be at risk, like the elderly, people on benefits and the unemployed young, but also many of our social activities that we currently take for granted may be extensively reduced as a consequence of high energy prices.

Unfortunately, the Nordic countries are no longer the fastest runners in gender equality and we still have not reached equality. We need to pick up the pace: only actual equality will be good enough, and it is well overdue. We can and should be role models within the energy sector as well. We may have the best starting point in the world to achieve these goals.

How can organisations in the energy sector work to improve gender equality?

I think awareness in all parts of an organization is a crucial point. Awareness needs to be raised in all levels of an organization, by bringing forward statistics on gender differences – especially pay gaps and recruitment. One can take active steps to make changes through awareness campaigns, courses, mentoring, and giving attention to role models. Especially reverse mentoring has proven to be especially effective. You have to set goals both for your own organization and for collaborators, implement measures and monitor frequently. Change will not happen by itself!

By acknowledging that gender equality is important – not only in society in general, but in all facets of the energy transition – and by choosing to strive for it, you make your mindset more inclusive. Inclusive mindsets and diverse workplaces inspire and encourage creativity that may result in bold, new ideas. Cultivating and harnessing new ideas will increase your competitiveness, no matter what part of the sector you’re in, and create a more content and motivated workforce. Engaged workers are the best advertisement you can get and will make your workplace more interesting and inclusive for new recruits, which consequently attracts employees from a wider selection of the population.

How can the Nordic countries work together to improve gender equality in the Nordic energy sector?

I think we should follow the Icelandic model and legislation on removing gender pay gaps. As Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO at Reykjavik Energy says in the Gender equality in the Nordic energy sector report: “You decide, and then you do it!” We have to set higher standards for ourselves concerning gender equality and diversity, and make sure to monitor and report on progress. We need to gather even better and more comparable statistics and repeat the Gender equality in the Nordic energy sector report on an annual or biannual basis. To monitor these numbers should feel like a natural part of any reporting, rather than something that is easy to opt out from. What’s more, we need public campaigns showcasing the statistics, designed to change mindsets and raise awareness. I also hope for a joint, Nordic declaration on this topic to increase impact and speed, much like the Helsinki declaration on Nordic Carbon Neutrality in 2019.

Do you have any advice for young women thinking about or entering a career within the energy sector?

It’s a very important sector that needs the perspective from all parts of society to succeed. To contribute to reaching our goals for the future, we need to take a holistic approach to solve the problem. We need collaboration where engineers work with lawyers, energy companies work with academia and so on, and so many roads lead to working with energy topics and achieving a sustainable future. On the way, make sure to seek connections and build a business network. It both makes your work more interesting and may help build a career. It may also open up new, exciting opportunities that you otherwise might not have considered. So figure out what you want to contribute to and work on, take the plunge and get to it!

Name: Karina Barnholt Klepper
Position: Senior researcher
Organisation: The Norwegian Research Establishment
Education: PhD in Nanotechnology and materials science
Leisure: Training, gardening, house renovation, knitting and my dog of course :-)